Kent Barrett

Vice President

PRGN agency:
The Hoyt Organization

Los Angeles, USA

Years at the agency:
9 years

1. What did you do before PR? : I was a political reporter covering the Illinois Statehouse for ABC affiliates and did a brief stint as a TV News assignment editor in Madison, Wisc. So I’ve worked both sides of the coin, if you will.

Interviewing the Rev. Jesse Jackson while reporting on protests that occurred in a racially charge environment in Decatur, Ill in the late 90s

2. Why did you choose to enter PR?: I’ve always been a news junkie – growing up, dinner was always timed around the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and later Dan Rather – and having a master’s degree specializing in political journalism (Public Affairs Reporting, University of Illinois-Springfield), I have a deep love and appreciation for the importance of journalism. That said, as a news reporter, too often I was called upon to knock on the door of a grieving parent or loved one who had just lost someone to a shooting or violent death. I found myself at times coaching the “mourner” on how to handle the other reporters like me who would surely follow. I didn’t know it at that time, but in retrospect, helping people who were faced with unexpected media attention was something I found rewarding. So it only seemed natural that I would end up doing it for a living. In the end, being able to sniff out a good news story serves me well in all aspects of public relations. I know how to craft the story and be the storyteller.

3. What’s your “must visit” spot in Los Angeles?: Oh gosh. Where to begin? Perhaps I will pick my perfect Saturday:

  • Daytime: My lovely fiancée and 4-pound Yorkie, Stella, sit in the sun at the Original Farmers Markets on Fairfax, where the humans enjoy incredible food and ice-cold drinks while stocking up on produce. Meanwhile, Stella visits the Doggie Bakery and gets love from (on at least one Saturday) tourists from six continents. She surely deserves an ambassadorship.
  • Nighttime: Dinner at La Scala in Beverly Hills, where the Spaghetti Bolognese has been made the same way for more than 60 years. It’s what pasta is supposed to taste like! After dinner, stop just down the street at Nick’s Martini Bar, where you can borrow a faux fur coat and hat and do a vodka tasting inside a massive vodka cooler while live jazz plays.

4. Since moving to PR, what’s been your biggest “win”?: No pun intended, but as far as “wins” go, after clearing the room following a press event with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden at the NCAA Final Four, where I was associate director, Coach Wooden patted me on the back and said “’atta boy.” No PR metrics have ever lived up to that.

5. How do you measure PR’s value? : No doubt that there’s a high level of subjectivity to the value of PR. There are a lot of metrics that quantify the value of PR. For me, the key the measuring PR comes from the beginning on a new client relationship. It’s essential that we work up front with a client to determine goals for the overall communications program and how PR fits into that. In the end, it often comes down to a very qualitative assessment. At our agency, one of our favorite stories is when a client – an architecture firm – walked into a meeting with a prospective client and saw themselves on the cover of a magazine sitting in the lobby. As you can image, they won the business.

6. Do you have a view on monthly retainers?: They offer an incredible degree of flexibility that hasn’t become apparent in any other model. To be able to work closely with a client on a regular basis and engage in activities that focus on current needs while remaining within budget each month has always been a win-win.

7. What are your keys to leadership?: Probably only in the past few years it has become as much about recognizing my own areas of weakness as it has for members of our team. When I am able to recognize areas of growth for each team member, while also being transparent and realistic about which needs I need to work on, the team seems to function better. It helps ensure we all learn from each other and continually have each other’s backs.

8. How do you choose the best job candidates?: I am always searching for some indication that a candidate has a natural curiosity and an ability to approach new content and challenges with the attitude that they are driven to “figure it out” for themselves before being told what to do.

9. What is your most memorable PRGN moment?: I know this is supposed to be a serious industry-related question, but aside from being voted into PRGN a few years ago during a meeting in Dubai, my most memorable moment has to be joining an international group of colleagues at a Kyoto, Japan karaoke bar to perform a very loud and multi-accented rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

10. What’s your favorite food?: Though I live in Los Angeles, I grew up in deep southern Illinois not far from Kentucky and have family in the South. I have a special place in my heart for a grilled pork tenderloin with a side of slow-cooked collard greens and jalapeno corn bread. I have a pork dry-rub recipe that, if you ask nicely, I might share with you.

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